Ed Byrne: Crowd Pleaser

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Crowd-pleaser is a double-edged sword. For a comedian, that’s pretty much the job description, but it’s not breaking any secrets to admit us critics often use it in a more backhanded way, to suggest an act who’s pressing the audience’s buttons but doesn’t do much creatively.

Well, Ed Bryne’s new offering is definitely a Ronseal show. But does it do what it says in the title with easy, unchallenging, observational shtick? Well, yes, a bit – but there’s also humour here that transcends the comfortable origins of the material.

Much of the show revolves around just three things that he has: a wife, a baby son and a pet cat. This is about as domestic as you can get, yet he manages to see new things in these much-analysed, universal topics. His take on the was his Missus demands household chores be done might not push the envelope, but he finds a nice hook on which to hang it all, while the routine about why we like cats more than people, unpromising as that premise might seem, actually produces a virtuoso routine even non-cat owners will identify with.

Babies are often seen as the creative kiss of death for comedians, and indeed Byrne’s talk of his seven-month-old is all puke, shit and piss – although he focussing on the pressure with which these secretions are emitted, rather than their foul content, so it doesn’t feel as if we’ve heard this particular angle before.

Yes, sometimes he doesn’t try too hard. After all, he gets a laugh by saying ‘Piers Morgan, who’s a cock…’ so why struggle for left-field insight? Some of the vaguely topical pieces about the Coalition government and the Irish attitude to immigration seem a little mundane, and he perhaps oversells a weird encounter with the now-dead Star Trek actor Paul Wingfield.

This comes as part of a section where he flaunts his nerd credentials – nerd as in liking sci-fi and video games, rather than actually understanding science – and there’s a nice flourish to the way he teases fellow geeks in the audience with the pedantry he knows they are feeling.

Talking of which, he applies such finicky principles to a T-shirt he saw a young teenager wearing – the second routine about age-inappropriate clothing he spotted in an airport in as many shows; but just as funny as the first.

Crowd Pleaser doesn’t have the benefit of the same strong, central theme that his last tour Different Class was built around; but it’s founded on robustly solid routines, with enough smart flourishes to avoid the predictable. You will be entertained.

Review date: 31 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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